onsdag 2 december 2009

From Cimategate to Sciencegate

The scandal of scientific fraud at East Anglia University is a symptom of a wider crisis in science, politics and media identified e.g. by Andrew Orlowski in The scandal we see and the scandal we don't see by Frank J. Tipler in Climategate: The Skeptical Scientists View on The Resilient Earth and in my post on The Age of Unreason and Reason and The End of Anonymous Peer-Review in Science. Or some of the other 18 miljon Climategate hits on Google. 

The main question is how it is possible that the distorted view of a small group of scientists can come to dominate both science, media and politics? We know by experience from the 20th century in particular, that if in a society everybody is led to run in the same direction by a certain propaganda pretending to be scientific and rational, things can go seriously wrong. 

Wall Street Journal identifies the problem to be Climategate: Science Is Dying:
  • The East Anglians' mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming's claims—plotting to shut them up and shut down their ability to publish—evokes the attempt to silence Galileo. The exchanges between Penn State's Michael Mann and East Anglia CRU director Phil Jones sound like Father Firenzuola, the Commissary-General of the Inquisition.
  • Everyone working in science, no matter their politics, has an stake in cleaning up the mess revealed by the East Anglia emails. Science is on the credibility bubble. If it pops, centuries of what we understand to be the role of science go with it.
Yes, the main responsibility of scientists in a free society is to guarantee that false science is detected and kept under control. When The Royal Society and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and many other scientific societies uncritically endorse IPCC, they fail to live up to this responsibility. The conclusion can only be that modern science is in a deep crisis in front of a Sciencegate leading out into empty space.

A main responsibility of media, in particular public service, is to report objectively without preset one-sided agenda. When Swedish Television adopts a preset policy of climate alarmism along with the main Swedish newspapers DN and SvD,  this responsibility is given up. The conclusion is that a form of Berlusconi media politics has taken over both public service and the free independent press in our democratic society.

The crisis seems to be pretty serious...according to blogosphere but not classical media...as yet another indication of the crisis of science and media.

But there is hope: Jon Stewart: Science debunked. As long as you can laugh there is hope. Has Jon not heard about KVA? And there is CBSNews:
  • It looks like climate change skeptics have finally found their voice. And scientists and politicians endorsing dramatic limits on economic growth to limit carbon dioxide have been reminded where the burden of proof properly lies. 

But the score for US television is as poor as Swedish: 12 Days, 3 Networks and No Mention of Climategate Scandal. And so comes the crushing Editorial in Nature:

  • Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. 
  • Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. 
  • The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world's voracious appetite for carbon is essential 
  • The harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden.
  • The e-mail theft also highlights how difficult it can be for climate researchers to follow the canons of scientific openness, which require them to make public the data on which they base their conclusions.
  • The pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science.
These statements expressing evidently deeply felt convictions of an Editor of a main scientific journal, show that scientific values and principles are in a state of free fall "undermining the trust in scientists and science". This is serious, because the World needs trustworthy scientists and science. The alternative is state-controlled lysenkoism or tabloid truth.

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